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Eastern DR Congo residents reject East African regional force



Some residents in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where the M23 rebels groups have been holding sway for over six months have rejected the deployment of a regional peacekeeping force by the Eastern African regional body.

On Monday, the East African Community (EAC) leaders in a meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, had endorsed the deployment of a regional force to help stabilise eastern DRC, in a move that had also earlier been discussed by military chiefs in the regional bloc.

But opponents of the troop deployment have also pointed to the chequered history that some of DR Congo’s neighbours have had in the war-torn east of the country, and rather called for reforms and reinforcements in the Congolese armed forces.

In a letter to President Felix Tshisekedi by a group known as a citizen movement called Lucha (Fight for Change), the group said the country should reject the regional force citing security, economic or geopolitical reasons for the objections.

Lucha which was founded in 2012 in Goma, the capital of the troubled eastern DRC’s North Kivu province, which borders Uganda and Rwanda, is one of the strongest voices in the country.

“We vigorously reject the EAC project and call on you to give it up because of the security, economic and geopolitical integrity of the DRC,” the movement said.

“At least three of the seven member states of the East African Community — Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi — have been involved for more than two decades in the destabilisation of our country, through interventions directly from their armies or through armed groups,” the letter added.

According to the group, all the three countries which are DR Congo’s eastern neighbours, were involved in the two civil wars that wracked the vast mineral-rich country between 1996 and 2003.

Kinshasa has also made it already made it clear it opposes Rwanda’s participation in any regional force, accusing it of backing the resurgent M23 rebels. Kigali denies the charge.

But even without Rwandan involvement, some residents in Goma are not convinced by the idea of such a regional force.

For many in the region, it was not clear how any new regional force could succeed where the United Nations peacekeeping forces, the MONUSCO, had failed.

Raphael Wekenge, the coordinator of the Congolese Coalition for Transitional Justice (CCJT) who also rejected the deployment, said:

“I am sceptical about the operational side of a force made up of countries that have interests in our own,” he said.

Paulin Mulume, from the Amka Congo collective of citizens’ movements, also kicked against the EAC forces

“We have already had several joint operations in the east of the country, which have not borne fruit.

“We don’t know what prompted our president to get involved in this affair. It should have gone through parliament. I doubt the effectiveness of this force,” Mulume added.

DRC’s Nobel laureate, Denis Mukwege, also voiced out against a “regional force including countries at the root of destabilization, atrocities and the plunder of our resources”.

“This will bring neither stability nor peace and risks worsening the situation,” he warned, also calling for a reform of the country’s armed forces.


South Sudan activists fight child marriage where girls are sold for cows



A group of South Sudanese activists have come together to fight against an obnoxious practice where young girls are auctioned off into marriage in exchange for cows, especially in some rural communities.

According to Jackline Nasiwa, the Executive Director of the Center of Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice, the practice had robbed many young girls of a future.

“The price of a daughter, determined in negotiations between her father and would-be husband, is typically 50 to 100 cows, each worth up to $1,000.

“A girl viewed as beautiful, fertile and of high social rank can bring as many as 200 cows. They sell their daughters so that they get something to survive. The younger the girl marries, the more the family gets cattle in return,” Nasiwa said.

“Poor families in South Sudan see laws against child marriage as barring them from profiting from thrir daughters and threatening their very survival, with only about 10% of girls finishing primary school because of factors including conflict and cultural beliefs.

“Some families worry that sending girls to school exposes them to dangers such as sexual assault that could lower their value when it comes time to look for marriage offers,” Nasiwa added.

Another girls’ right activist, Nyanachiek Madit, herself a survivor of the wife-for-cow practice, said she fought back when her father wanted to sell her off.

The 21-year-old Nyanachiek said she refused to be traded when her father said she would be married to a man about 50-years-old when she was only 17, because her family couldn’t afford to send her to school.

“I didn’t accept to get married because I am disabled and my education will be my ‘leg’ later on,” said Nyanachiek who was born with a congenital disorder.

She said she was convinced that schooling would give her a better life, so she stood up to her family and dared them to beat or even kill her.

Nyanachiek’s plight came to the attention of ChildBride Solidarity, which offers scholarships to girls whose parents abandon them after they oppose early marriage. With the group’s assistance, Nyanachiek now studies in South Sudan’s capital and is a very vocal voice against the practice.

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South African man bags two life sentences for brutally raping, murdering 29-year-old woman



A 40-year-old man, Hendrick Nicholas Hanse van Reinsburg, has been sentenced to two life sentences by a High Court for rape and brutally murdering a 29-year-old woman.

Prosecutors revealed that Van Reinsburg had, on 13 October 2019, brutally raped and murdered Andiswa Zitha, in her home in the Mjejane area of Mpumalanga.

The prosecutors said the victim suffered violence which was perpetuated by the accused, adding that after the accused raped her, he used a wooden object to pummel her several times before he fled the scene.

“Van Reinsburg left Zitha in a pool of blood after raping and brutally attacking her in her home in Mjejane near Komatipoort,” Mpumalanga police spokesperson, Brigadier Selvy Mohlala, said while testifying.

“Zitha was found by neighbours who took her to Tonga Hospital but she was unfortunately certified dead the next day on 14 October 2019,” Mohlala said.

“The police opened a murder case with an additional charge of rape and worked tirelessly in their investigation with the hope to find the perpetrator. Their hard work paid off when they arrested the accused at a tavern in Kamhlushwa on 20 October 2021,” said Mohlala.

“The accused was charged and taken to court where he was convicted and sentenced to one life sentence for rape as well as another life sentence for murder. The court also ordered for the sentences to run concurrently,” the police spokesman said.

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